Meet Molly (Millie Perkins), a young woman who lives in
a house on the beach with her elder sister, a seamstress, and said sister’s
two boys. At night, Molly works at a local bar as a waitress; during the
day, she goes out with the children, taking them for walks along the beach
and telling them stories of their grandfather, a seaman.
One day, while out on the beach with the boys, Molly begins to
notice a bunch of men exercising nearby. Certainly this is something
perfectly normal for most women her age; however, what’s not quite so normal
is the peek we get at her fantasies, which show the men dead and
splattered with blood.
Back at home, Molly attempts to relax while watching television with the
boys, but, upon seeing a commercial on television in which a handsome
football player touts the quality of a razor, she’s plunged into
another fantasy in which she dreams herself with a couple of men. After
tying the two of them up on the bed, she then disappears briefly into the
bathroom; when she returns, she’s carrying a razor much like the one
featured in the commercial. What she proceeds to do with it might even make
Bob Flanagan wince.
As the film wears on, it becomes increasingly clear that Molly’s
fantasies may not be just fantasies. The bodies of several football players
have been found by authorities, all of them sans genitalia. Is Molly
actually responsible for these crimes? And what could all those flashbacks
to her childhood have to do with all this?
More of a character study than a horror film, The Witch Who Came from
the Sea is, at its core, a portrait of a disturbed and traumatized young
woman. Taking the film on this level, as opposed to a baser one (e.g. “The
Movie Where This Girl Cuts These Guys’ Dicks Off!”), Witch proves to
be a fairly effective, if nevertheless flawed, piece of work.
There is a lot to like about Witch. The cinematography, for
example, is quite poetic and makes the production seem somewhat like a
European art film, a feeling that is further propagated by the story’s
deliberate pace and focus on character. On that note, Millie Perkins’
acting, too, is generally effective and surprisingly nuanced, aside from in
a few “freak-out” sequences, when things get taken a little over the top.
Nevertheless, Witch is, in general, an effective production that’s
worthy of a viewing for anyone interested in more off-the-beaten-path
American cinema from the seventies.
As for presentation, it appears that Subversive has come through once
again. At the beginning of the disk, a brief comparison plays contrasting a
scratchy old print of the film with Subversive’s new one,
and it really serves to underline the work that must have gone into putting
together this presentation. The new print on display is, if a tad faded,
otherwise is fine shape, with very few scratches of blemishes present. The
fact that it’s presented in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic
enhancement is also a plus.
As with presentation, Subversive similarly comes through with extras,
which, while not quite as exhaustively plentiful as those on the Living
Hell DVD, are nevertheless are surprisingly abundant considering the age
and rarity of Witch.
Things start off with bios for Millie Perkins, director Matt Cimber and
Cinematographer Dean Cundry and a gallery of trailers for Witch,
Living Hell, and two upcoming Subversive releases, Battlefield
Baseball and Gemini.
Following this is an audio commentary with Perkins, Cimber and Cundry all
present, and which, while interesting at times, isn’t quite filled with the
wealth of information and discussion that one might expect from people with
such long and illustrious careers. An inordinate amount of discussion
surrounds who’s playing what part and how effective (s)he is, as well as
various observations about the film’s groundbreaking approach to its taboo subject
matter. Along with this, various long, silent pauses give the feeling
that perhaps the track was not all it could have been.
The same cannot be said, however, about the 36-minute retrospective
featurette also found on the disk, which contains a good deal of interesting
stories and observations from (again) Perkins,
and Cundry. Much more satisfying than the commentary
and an interesting exploitation of the film’s themes, this featurette just
might win the rather inaccessible film a few more converts.
Perhaps not quite as graphic as its years in the bootleg circuit might
have lead some to believe, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a film
that nevertheless works on its own terms—not as a shock opus, but simply as
a strange yet moving character study of a deeply troubled woman.
Excellently presented by the fine folks at Subversive Cinema, Witch
deserves a look for anyone more interested in the emotional side of